With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to know where to begin. But fear not, because I've got you covered with my comprehensive Mexico City Travel Guide.
I will cover safety matters, the best areas to stay at, and of course, all the amazing places you have to visit in Mexico City.
Safety in Mexico City
The best areas to stay at
Cool areas to explore
Fun things to do
Safety in Mexico City
I really want to start with this section as I feel like this is the biggest worry before coming to Mexico City. I want to assure you, that you have nothing to worry about. As long as you know the areas that are safe and the ones you should avoid you will be completely fine. Like any big city, also in Mexico City there are dangerous areas but as long you will stick with the areas described in this article, you will be alright.
The truth is, yes, we hear a lot about Mexico and the growing drug wars, gang and gun violence, BUT Mexico City is the safe zone (apart from some specific areas). Together with the Yucatan area, Mexico City is rated as one of the safest cities in Mexico. And I can vouch for that! I spent 2 weeks in the city and felt very safe. Much safer than in many other Central and South American countries. Also, the city (at least the safe popular zones for tourists) is very clean and organized. I was extremely impressed by the city straight away. It was nothing like expected...much better capital in sense of safety, cleanliness, and organization than many I have been to.
I am in general a very cautious traveler and usually do not wander around during late hours but in Mexico City, I had no issues with that. I felt safe throughout the day and evenings.
Definitely, do not let safety concerns stand in your way of exploring this amazing city!
The best areas to stay at in Mexico City
To ensure you are having the best time, it is very important to decide on the best location to stay at.
I usually try to stay in the center of everything so I need to use the least transportation possible. But Mexico City will not be one of those places! It is such a big city you will end up using the metro, Uber, or taxi anyway.
My top choice
I personally think the best location is around here:
I am not highlighting the whole district, because all the districts are big and you will find many travel blogs mentioning different district names but I want to provide you with exact specific locations as one district end and the other can be very different. This area is close to the park, by Reforma Avenue on which are many famous monuments, and also an easy drive away from the historic center. This specific area is full of restaurants and coffee shops. Definitely very safe as it is also the business district.
My second choice
Then this also is a very nice area to stay at, but more expensive that is why I am mentioning it as the second one:
Mostly highrise buildings are there with beautiful views of the park. I think it's a great location if you are planning to stay in Mexico City long-term.
The historic center is very busy and bubbly, definitely ideal for those loving to be in the center of the buzz. For me personally, I loved to visit the historic center but I wouldn't stay there because on daily bases it would have been too much for me. I do not like overcrowded areas.
I am mentioning this area as it is also a safe option to stay in. As long as you stick with staying as close to the main square as possible you will be alright. And of course, it is a great area to explore. Ideal for those short on time.
Zona Rosa between my first area and the historic center is also safe to stay at but I just feel like if you are staying somewhere then better it be by the park or closer to the historic center.
Other safe areas to stay at
These 3 areas are also safe to stay at: La Condesa, Roma Norte, and Roma Sur. These areas are more budget-friendly, only a bit further away from all the action. These 3 areas are also great because they are full of cafes and restaurants.
Must Visit Sites in Mexico City
Historic Center of Mexico City
The main place you have to visit in the historic center of Mexico City is the main square - Zócalo, which is also known as Plaza de la Constitución. It is one of the largest public squares in the world, measuring 57,600 square meters. Once I got there I was really blown away, the magnitude of the square together with the giant Mexican flag is just so powerful.
The Zócalo has a rich history and has been the site of many important events. On different sides of the square, you will find other significant sites, like Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Palace. I highly recommend making a quick stop at the City government office opposite the cathedral which has a little but very interesting museum covering significant events in Mexico City. This museum is free.
The square is the main hub for all the events, so if you are in the city during celebrations, like Independence Day or Halloween (Día de los Muertos) make sure to check out the square for festivities!
The historic center is full of incredible and important buildings that are mostly now turned into museums for people to enjoy but if there is one building that I have to highlight that you have to see is the Palace of Fine Arts.
What better way to embrace the historic center than to walk the main street in it - Madero Street. It is a pedestrian-only street that runs east-west through the heart of the historic district, connecting the Zócalo (main square) to the Palace of Fine Arts. Madero Street is lined with historic buildings, cafes, shops, and restaurants, Overall, Madero Street is a vibrant and bustling thoroughfare that showcases the rich history and cultural diversity of Mexico City's historic center.
For a great lunch spot in the historic center, I recommend Palace of the Tiles, which is a stunning Art Nouveau building covered in blue and white tiles. Inside you will find one of the most unique restaurants. Prices for a place like that were very reasonable and if you are lucky you will have live music in the background.
For the Best View of the City
For the best view of the city, I recommend the Latin American Tower (Torre Latinoamericana). The building itself is very significant. It was one of the tallest buildings in the city when it was completed in 1956, standing at 183 meters (600 feet) tall. It held the title of the tallest building in Latin America for several years and remains an iconic part of the city's skyline. At the time it was an innovative design and engineering. It survived the devastating earthquake in 1985. The Latin American Tower is a symbol of Mexico City's resilience and innovation.
Ticket prices vary as you can pick the cheapest option and go up only for the panoramic views of the city or also include the Tower Museum, which features exhibits on the history of the building and Mexico City's urban development. The highest you can get is the 44th floor which is an open top floor with 360 degree view. On the 42nd floor, you will find a bar. The drinks are quite expensive (around $10 per cocktail) but definitely worth the views.
Must see on Reforma Avenue is the Angel of Independence. It is a symbol of Mexico's independence and is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city. The statue was built in 1910 to commemorate the centennial of Mexico's independence from Spain. It stands at 36 meters (118 feet) tall and depicts a winged angel holding a laurel wreath and a broken chain, representing Mexico's triumph over tyranny.
Another important monument is the Monument to the Mexican Revolution - an iconic symbol of Mexico's struggle for independence. It is dedicated to the Mexican Revolution, which took place from 1910 to 1920 and resulted in the overthrow of the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz.
Overall Reforma Avenue is a site itself, just walking through it is a great way to see the city. The wide, tree-lined avenue offers a unique blend of history, culture, and commerce. At the end of the avenue, you will find the Chapultepec Park which I believe deserves a whole section of its own.
I feel like the park deserves its own section because there are so many sites to explore.
The main place you have to visit is the Chapultepec Castle. The castle was originally built in the 18th century as a summer retreat for the Spanish viceroy, but it was later used as a military academy, an imperial palace, and the official residence of several Mexican presidents. Today, it is home to the National Museum of History, which features exhibits on Mexico's history and culture, as well as the castle's own history and architecture.
I was taken away by the stunning architecture and beautiful gardens!
Even if you are not into museums you have to visit the National Museum of Anthropology! What makes the National Museum of Anthropology special is its world-class exhibits, which are beautifully curated and displayed in a modern and spacious building. The museum is home to the largest collection of pre-Columbian artifacts in the world, including the famous Aztec Calendar Stone and the giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization. It also features exhibits on the Maya, Toltec, and other ancient civilizations that once inhabited Mexico. I actually did learn something new and 3 hours flew by!
Simply a must-see is the Altar to the Homeland. It is a powerful symbol of Mexico's rich and complex history and is considered one of the most important monuments in the country.
If I had to highlight my top 3 of Chapultepec Park then those would be my top picks but of course, the park itself is lovely featuring lakes, a zoo, a botanical garden, and loads of trails. It is two times bigger than New York's Central Park!
2 other places in Mexico City worth including
The Soumaya Museum for all art lovers. It is one of the most unique and impressive buildings in the city, both for its architecture and its collection of art and artifacts. The museum is divided into several galleries and floors, each dedicated to different themes and art periods. The best part - it is free.
The Guadalupe Basilica is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the world, attracting millions of visitors each year. The basilica is dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, a religious icon who is said to have appeared to a Mexican peasant named Juan Diego in 1531. The image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is enshrined in the basilica and is considered one of the most important religious symbols in Mexico.
Cool Areas to Explore in Mexico City
Coyoacan is the bohemian part of the city. Once I arrived there I felt like I am in a different city. I really loved the atmosphere of the place.
One of the main attractions in Coyoacán is the Frida Kahlo Museum, also known as the Casa Azul or Blue House, which was the former home of the famous Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The museum features many of Kahlo's personal belongings, as well as her artwork and photographs.
Coyoacán features several beautiful parks and gardens. The neighborhood is also known for its street food. You will find a lot of street vendors offering local and international dishes.
This area is in the South part of the city where you can get by metro or Uber.
Xochimilco is known for its canals and colorful boats. A boat ride through the historic canals is a must-do! 1 hour ride costs MXN 600 ($34), which is for a boat, not per person. Xochimilco was once an important center of agriculture and trade for the ancient Aztecs, and its canals were used for transportation and irrigation. Today, the canals are a popular tourist attraction, with visitors taking leisurely boat rides on colorful flat-bottomed boats called trajineras.
Getting there is a bit of a challenge. You would need to do 2 metro rides and then a bus ride which overall would take you 3h. I recommend getting an Uber there. From the Angel of Independence statue, it cost us around $10 and took 1h. Definitely worth it.
Fun things to do in Mexico City
I normally do not do such touristic activities but I think the hop-on hop-off bus is a must in Mexico City. As I said the city is so big it is really hard to see everything in a short period of time. So for those visiting just for a few days, I believe the hop on hop off bus is a great choice. Also, you will save money because the bus for the whole day offering 4 different routes costs just around $13. Taxi or Uber to get to each point will definitely cost you more. Metro is an option but then you need to have a very clear plan and research in advance. The 4 bus routes over all the places I have mentioned above apart from Xochimilco.
On Sunday, some of the city's main roads get closed off for bike traffic. Locals and tourists embrace themselves on a fun Sunday bike ride through the city. I did something like that in Quito, Ecuador so I was really looking forward to joining in but all the bike rentals required leaving the original passport. So if you do find one that doesn't or you do not have issues with leaving your passport then I think it could be a great thing to do on Sunday in Mexico City.
Hot air balloon rides are a popular activity in Mexico City and its surrounding areas, offering a unique and unforgettable perspective on the city's stunning landscapes and landmarks. There are several companies that offer hot air balloon rides in Mexico City, with options ranging from short rides over the city to longer excursions through the surrounding countryside. Two main locations from where to take the ride are: Teotihuacan & Valley of Mexico.